SCHECHTER, SOLOMON

SCHECHTER, SOLOMON (Shneur Zalman; 1847–1915), rabbinic scholar and president of the jewish theological seminary of america . Schechter was born in Focsani, Romania. His father, a Chabad Ḥasid, was a ritual slaughterer (Ger. Schaechter). In his teens he studied with the rabbinic author Joseph Saul Nathanson in Lemberg. From about 1875 to 1879 he attended the Vienna bet ha-midrash. He acquired a lifelong devotion to scientific study of the tradition and developed the central notion of the community of Israel as decisive for Jewish living and thinking. He was to call it "Catholic Israel." From 1879 he studied at the Berlin Hochschule fuer die Wissenschaft des Judentums and at the University of Berlin. When, in 1882, a fellow student at the Hochschule, Claude Goldsmid Montefiore, invited him to be his tutor in rabbinics in London, Schechter accepted. In England he rose to prominence as a rabbinic scholar and spokesman for Jewish traditionalism. In 1890 he was appointed lecturer in talmudics and in 1892 reader in rabbinics at Cambridge University. In 1899 he also became professor of Hebrew at University College, London. Schechter's first substantial work was his edition of Avot de-Rabbi Nathan (1887). His fame rests on the scholarly recovery of the cairo genizah . It created a sensation in the world of scholarship, and in its wake Jewish history and the history of Mediterranean society have been rewritten. Over one hundred thousand manuscripts and manuscript fragments were brought to England and presented to Cambridge University by Schechter and Charles Taylor, the master of St. John's College who had made Schechter's trip possible. Together they published the newly discovered fragments of the Hebrew original of ben sira (The Wisdom of Ben Sira, 1899). Late in 1901 Schechter accepted an invitation by a number of leading American Jews, notably his friend, Judge Mayer Sulzberger of Philadelphia, to assume the post of president of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. He served in this capacity from 1902 until his death. He was able to attract a distinguished faculty, including Louis Ginzberg. Alexander Marx, Israel Friedlaender, Israel Davidson, and Mordecai M. Kaplan. The Seminary became one of the most important centers of Jewish learning and of Jewish intellectual and, indeed, national revival. Schechter's Studies in Judaism (3 vols., 1896–1924), his Some Aspects of Rabbinic Theology (in book form, 1909; based on essays in the Jewish Quarterly Review, 1894–1896), and Seminary Addresses and Other Papers (1915) remain indispensable documents of American Jewish religious Conservatism. Steering a course between Orthodoxy and Reform, Schechter combined scholarliness and objectivity with   piety, and piety with a measure of flexibility and innovation in doctrine and practice. In 1913 Schechter was instrumental in founding the united Synagogue of America (his original designation read "Agudath Jeshurun – A Union for Promoting Traditional Judaism in America"), which became a major national institution of Conservative Judaism in the United States. In 1905 he acknowledged Zionism as "the great bulwark against assimilation." He felt close to religious and spiritual Zionism and in 1913 attended the 11th Zionist Congress in Vienna. Over the strenuous objections of Seminary board members Jacob H. Schiff and Louis Marshall, he opened the Seminary to Zionist activity. But he remained, essentially, a builder of religious Judaism in the American diaspora. Schechter is considered the chief architect of Conservative Judaism in the United States. In his view, this version of Jewish religious life and thought was organically related to the Historical School, founded by Zunz, Frankel, and Graetz. Schechter defined the theological position of the school: "It is not the mere revealed Bible that is of first importance to the Jew but the Bible as it repeats itself in history, in other words, as it is interpreted by Tradition… Since then the interpretation of Scripture or the Secondary Meaning is mainly a product of changing historical influences, it follows that the center of authority is actually removed from the Bible and placed in some living body, which, by reason of its being in touch with the ideal aspirations and the religious needs of the age, is best able to determine the nature of the Secondary Meaning. This living body, however, is not represented by any section of the nation, or any corporate priesthood, or Rabbihood, but by the collective conscience of Catholic Israel, as embodied in the Universal Synagogue" (Studies in Judaism, Series One, JPS, 1896, xvii–xviii). Though a staunch traditionalist, Schechter admitted the possibility of change. However, he felt that changes should not be introduced arbitrarily or deliberately. Rather, "the norm as well as the sanction of Judaism is the practice actually in vogue. Its consecration is the consecration of general use – or, in other words, of Catholic Israel" (ibid., xix). Schechter insisted (ibid., 180ff.) Judaism must be understood as regulating not only our actions but also our thoughts: "It is true that every great religion is a 'concentration of many ideas and ideals' which make this religion able to adapt itself to various modes of thinking and living. But there must always be a point round which all these ideas concentrate themselves. This center is Dogma." -BIBLIOGRAPHY: N. Bentwich, Solomon Schechter: A Biography (1938); A.S. Oko, Solomon Schechter: A Bibliography (1938); M. Davis, The Emergence of Conservative Judaism (1963); A. Marx, Essays in Jewish Biography (1947), 229–50; B. Mandelbaum, The Wisdom of Solomon Schechter (1963); M. Ben-Horin, in: JSOS, 25 (1963), 249–86; 27 (1965), 75–102; 30 (1968), 262–71; idem, in: AJHSQ, 56 (1966/67), 208–31); idem, in: JQR Seventy-fifth Anniversary Volume (1967), 47–59; H.H. and M.L. Rubenovitz, The Walking Heart (1967), 14–20; A. Parzen, Architects of Conservative Judaism (1964); A. Karp, in: The Jewish Experience in America, 5 (1969), 111–29; A. Scheiber, in: HUCA, 33 (1962), 255–75. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: C. Adler, in: The American Jewish Year Book, 18 (1916–1917), 24–67; N. Bentwich, in: Melilah, 2 (1946), 25–36 (Heb.); G. Cohen, in: Proceedings of the Rabbinical Assembly, 44 (1982), 57–68; R. Fierstien and J. Waxman (eds.), Solomon Schechter in America: A Centennial Tribute (2002); D. Fine, in: Judaism, 46:1 (Winter 1997), 3–24; S. Goldman (ed.), Schechter Memorial: JTS Students' Annual, 3 (1916); S. Greenberg, in: Conservative Judaism, 39:4 (Summer 1987), 7–29; Ch.I. Hoffman in: C. Adler (ed.), The Jewish Theological Seminary Semi-Centennial Volume (1939), 49–64; J. Kabakoff, in: Bitzaron, 9 (Summer–Winter 1987–88), 70–81 (Heb.); P. Nadell, Conservative Judaism in America: A Biographical Dictionary and Sourcebook (1988), 222–27 with bibliography; I. Schorsch, in: Conservative Judaism, 55:2 (Winter 2003), 3–23; S. Siegel, in: Proceedings of the Rabbinical Assembly, 39 (1977), 44–55; J. Wertheimer (ed.), Tradition Renewed: A History of the Jewish Theological Seminary (1997), I, 43–102, 293–326; 2, 446–449; A. Ya'ari, Iggerot Shneior Zalman Schechter el Poznanski (1944); Y. Zussman, in: Mada'ei ha-Yahadut, 38 (1998), 213–30 (Heb.). (Meir Ben-Horon)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Schechter, Solomon — ▪ American rabbi and scholar born Dec. 7, 1847, Foc şani, Rom. died Nov. 19, 1915, New York, N.Y., U.S.       outstanding authority on the Talmud, and a researcher who discovered important ancient documents. He was also a leader of Conservative… …   Universalium

  • Schechter,Solomon — Schech·ter (shĕkʹtər), Solomon. 1847 1915. Romanian born Hebrew scholar who discovered the lost chapters of Ecclesiasticus. * * * …   Universalium

  • Schechter, Solomon — (1847 1915)    British rabbinic scholar. He was born in Foscani, Romania. He became tutor in rabbinics to Claude Montefiore in London; in 1890 he became a lecturer in rabbinics at Cambridge University, and two years later reader. He was also… …   Dictionary of Jewish Biography

  • Schechter, Solomon (Schneur Zalman) — (1847–1915)    Scholar and founder of Conservative Judaism. The first part of Schechter’s life was spent in his native Romania and on his studies in Vienna and Berlin. In 1882 he was invited to England, where he remained twenty years. He lectured …   Who’s Who in Jewish History after the period of the Old Testament

  • Solomon Schechter — שניאור זלמן שכטר (December 7, 1847 November 191915) was a Moldavian born Romanian and English rabbi, academic scholar, and educator, most famous for his roles as founder and President of the United Synagogue of America, President of the Jewish… …   Wikipedia

  • Schechter — may refer to:* Schechter Letter, letter discovered in the Cairo Geniza * Solomon Schechter Day School Association, named after Solomon Schechter. * Schechter Poultry Corp. v. United States , United States Supreme Court caseSchechter or Schachter… …   Wikipedia

  • Solomon Schechter — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Schechter. Solomon Schechter étudiant des documents de la Gueniza du Caire, vers 1895. Solomon Schechter (hébreu: שניאור זלמן שכטר …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Solomon Schechter Day School of Essex and Union — (SSDSEU) is a private Jewish day school that offers primary and religious education for Jewish children from pre K through 12th grade. It has two campuses in West Orange, and primarily serves families in Essex and Union counties, but attracts… …   Wikipedia

  • Solomon Schechter School of Manhattan — Established 1995 School type …   Wikipedia

  • Solomon Schechter — studiert in Cambridge Dokumente der Kairoer Geniza. Das Bild ist inszeniert und lehnt sich ikonographisch an Rodins Der Denker an. (um 1895) Solomon Schechter (hebräisch: שניאור זלמן שכטר, auch: Salomon Schechter, * 7. Dezember 1847[1] in Focșani …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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